A government audit of seven hospitals exposed a patient’s worst nightmare: 151 security weaknesses that expose patients’ online medical records. Two reports released by the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department reveal that efforts to connect hospitals and doctors so that they can electronically share patient medical information has caused a number of security breaches that expose patient data to hackers.
Exposed information includes identifiers, such as names, birth dates and Social Security numbers, that can be used to steal identities or falsely bill insurance companies. According to the report, security gaps need to be addressed quickly to “ensure a secure environment for health data.”
According to the audit, the government agency encouraging the nation to move towards electronic records has safety procedures in place. However, the agency has not issued general security requirements for the computer systems at the hospitals and at doctors’ offices, where information is often stored.
Auditors found that 4 out of the 5 types of security weaknesses discovered could be classified as “high impact,” meaning that they could result in losses of valuable information that could even lead to severe injury or death. The hospitals where the breaches were found are located in California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Texas, but have not been identified due to the possibility of hackers using the information.
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